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Interview of Ingo Titze by Brad Story on 2009 May 19, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/31712
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Born in 1941 in Eastern Germany; discusses family life, childhood, and moving to the United States. Describes entering the University of Utah where he earned the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in electrical engineering; discusses working in private industry following graduation. Comments on his desire to combine his passion for science with his loving of singing and how that led to his doctoral research on the nature of vocal fold vibration, and his long, productive career in vocal science.
The technical committees the interviewee has been involved with are speech communication and musical acoustics. My name is Brad Story. Today's date is May 19, 2009. We are at the Hilton Hotel in Portland, Oregon, USA. The time is 1 :30 p.m. and I am about to interview Ingo Titze for the Acoustical Society of America, Technical Committee on Speech Communication and Musical Acoustics. Part B, present status of interviewee. Who is your present employer?
I have two employers. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Iowa.
What is their present business?
One is a professional Performing Arts Center, they put on shows, Broadway shows and theater, primarily. The other one is a state institution.
And what is your present job title?
In Denver, I am the Director the National Center for Voice and Speech and chief scientist. In Iowa, I am a University of Iowa Foundation distinguished Professor of speech science and voice.
And how long have you been with each of them?
I've been with the University of Iowa since 1979 and with the Denver Center four years less, 1983.
And what do you do there?
I do research in both places, but the focus is a bit different. In Iowa, we do mainly molecular biology and acoustics research including biomechanics. In Denver, we do more practical applied work with singers and actors and their voices.
This is part C, Acoustical Society related questions. What year did you join the ASA?
I don't know for sure, but I believe it was right around about 1971 as a student.
What was your age and profession at that time?
My age? Let's see. About 30 years old.
You said you were a student. Were you a graduate student?
I was a graduate student at Brigham Young University.
And in what area of acoustics were you interested at that time when you joined?
I was interested in speech and singing, primarily. I went to BYU to do my Ph.D. in acoustics, primarily because Harvey Fletcher (I believe the first President of the Society) had gone into semi-retirement there and I had a chance to learn a little bit from him.
What were your reasons for joining the Acoustical Society?
Well, my mentor Bill Strong, also a long term member of the Society and a graduate of MIT, wanted us to attend all the meetings that we could. He felt that ASA is where the research product basically was featured and so, from day one, he encouraged us to Sign up.
That answers my next question, was there anyone who encouraged you to join the ASA and, if so, who?
William J. Strong.
What ASA committees were or are you a member of?
Speech Communication and Music Acoustics, but I'm now also getting interested in bioacoustics, both the animal bioacoustics and tissue vibration problems.
What positions in the ASA did you hold or presently hold?
Aside from having been member of the technical committees, both music acoustics and speech communication, I was a member of the medals and awards committee some years ago.
Is there any particular ASA meeting or meetings that stand out as being something special, humorous, or different?
Well, I would have to point to one that happened somewhere around 1972 — it was a Cleveland meeting. The reason I think it was significant is because we drove from Salt Lake to Cleveland in a van and met up with a lot of snow in the high country in Wyoming. Everyone in the van was asleep and I was the designated driver. At times, I had no clue where the road was and I felt a tremendous burden was put upon me as a young man the first time out. There were six people in the van, all basically snoozing and snoring, and I was trying to find my way through a blizzard in Wyoming. Later in the trip, we ended up going to see musical instrument manufacturing companies, in particular the Conn Company, Elkhart, Indiana. We visited there and saw all the instrument designs. That was also the meeting where I met Art Benade, for the first time. He was then a giant in the field of music acoustics.
Right. Okay. So you were driving from Brigham Young…
From Provo, Utah all the way to Cleveland. [Laughter]
To the ASA meeting. Wow.
That was some trip. It took more than one day actually; we stayed overnight somewhere with church members.
Are there any ASA members that you met that had specially influenced your future?
Oh, there are a number of them, obviously. The big names for me have always been people like Gunnar Fant, Jim Flanagan and Ken Stevens. But long after that, I was highly impressed by a talk that Neville Fletcher gave on the topic of nonlinear dynamics that changed my whole way of thinking in voice acoustics.
Is there anything you care to say about the ASA past, present, and future?
Oh. I just hope that it not only survives but continues to grow because I believe that it's a wonderful association. I love the family atmosphere here. People are, for the most part, unpretentious, but very bright and eager to learn. I just hope that it continues to bring in new theories, new technological advances, and new members. And I hope that music Titze, 5119109, p. 5acoustics stays afloat, because I don't see quite the same stars rising that once were in that but I hope there will be another group emerging somewhere.
Have you provided an oral history interview for any other organization?
Not this type, no.
All right, we'll move on to the next section. It's a section on past history. Part D is the early years and pre-college. When and where were you born?
I was born in a town called Hirschberg, which means elk mountain, in a province called Silesia in eastern Germany in 1941, which was Pearl Harbor year. I was born four months before Pearl Harbor.
Before entering college, where were some of the places you lived?
Well, from my birth town in East Germany, we moved to West Germany as refugees in 1945. We lived there in a little town called Werdohls not far from a slightly bigger one called Ludensheid. We lived there for 10 years. Then we migrated to the United States in 1955, our whole family did, and I landed in the Salt Lake City area. I did my high school and college years there. After I was married, we moved to many other places. I'm not sure you want to know about all of these, but the list includes Saudi Arabia.
Those were the places before college?
No, before college was basically Salt Lake City.
Okay. What were your parents' occupations?
My mother was a homemaker all her life, and my father was a stone mason. He had a great desire to be a sculptor. Because of conditions in Nazi Germany, and worse conditions prior to that, he never had a chance to fulfill his full educational hopes. He was never formally trained, but he was a fine sculptor. He basically made his living hand carving monuments for individuals or organizations.
How would you describe yourself during those early years?
A young man tom between two passions. One was my passion for music, instilled in me by my older brother, and the other passion was sports, in particular soccer. I could never find enough time for either one, and oftentimes it became a conflict because when my friends urged me to go out to play a game of soccer my mother insisted that I do my music lesson. So I was torn and never felt satisfied.
As a youngster, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At some point, I became very, very desirous of being a professional musician, particularly a singer. I began to love opera and the great singers of my early days, like Jussi Bjorling and Fritz Wunderlich. I would listen for hours to their sound production, said to myself, "I want to be able to do something like this-to sing these arias." But at the same time, there was the other side of me that always wanted to play with scientific instrumentation, you know, take things apart and put them back together. So it was a conflict that still is not resolved in my life up to this point.
Before college; what were your hobbies or special interests or heroes, things like that?
Well, there were soccer players that were heroes. There was one player — Helmut Rahn was his name. In 1952, Germany won the gold medal in soccer in the Olympic games. This man shot two goals in the final game. We didn't have television in those days, so we listened to the whole thing on the radio. I was just totally enraptured with that event. But then my other heroes, again, were musicians and singers. I had some science heroes as well; you know, like Einstein and Planck, but that came much later.
What subjects, events, and activities did you enjoy most in high school? You've said music and sports, but…
My brother and I, because we came from Europe, were better in mathematics than the students we competed with in grades like 6th - 9th grade here in the United States. We were often called upon by the teacher to come to the front of the class and solve one of the more difficult math problems. That helped us overcome some of the frustrations we had in not being able to speak the language well and looking like everybody else. Basically, we were picked on a lot.
Looking back, was there any persons or persons in that time frame that had a strong influence on you and your future? You've mentioned your older brother in previous question.
There were church leaders and teachers in particular. I won't need to mention names. Mathematics teachers and physics teachers really impressed me. But I also have to say that much of my development as a young man took place in church. So I had very, very fine models of people who taught me right and wrong and good moral principles — things that I could use for the rest of my life. I relied heavily on church influence.
We'll move on to the college years. This is Part E, undergraduate level. Where did you first go to college and what was your major?
I went to the University of Utah to become an electrical engineer. The campus was close enough from home that I could walk to it every day, I was a perfect nobody. I skirted around people, sat in the back of the classroom like a rodent, and never wanted to be seen very much. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be an engineer, but I stuck with it because my father kept saying, "if you want to put bread on the table, you better learn something you can get an income with." I believed that and I did it.
And was it electrical engineering?
Electrical engineering, yes.
What made you choose that college and that major?
The choice of college was easy. I had to work to pay all my tuition myself. My parents weren't well enough off to pay for my schooling, so I had to work evenings and summers to get the tuition money. Obviously, the university closest to where we lived was the only one I could afford to go to. The choice of electrical engineering came from tinkering when I was a kid, I spent time in the basement taking radios apart and trying to put them back together. I wasn't good at it, hence I thought I'd learn something about electricity.
As an undergraduate, did you ever change your college or your major?
As an undergraduate, did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities? Examples: chess, math, newspapers, sports, music, etc. In college.
Not on campus. My sports activities were outside. I joined a soccer league in Salt Lake City, but it wasn't part of the intramural activities at the University.
You were either working or studying, too, probably.
Tell us about your undergraduate college days. Is there any particular person, teacher, professor, or someone special that had a strong influence on you or your future as an undergraduate?
Yes. The most influential was a professor by the name of Irvin Swigart. He taught the first level college physics class. He impressed me because he wanted people to think with him during class. He never wanted anyone to take notes in class, but said, "Put your pencil down and think with me through this experiment." And then he had stuff flying through the air and things exploding as he demonstrated the laws of physics. "If you want to take class notes, they're on the board at 7:30 in the morning. There's no class in here then. You can come and take your notes, also I leave them up till 9:00 at night." But when you're in class, talk with me and think with me." That's the way I wanted to teach, it I ever go the chance.
During that period of your life, who was your inspirational model? Scientist, religious leader, politician, business leader, movie star, sports hero, etc.? Again, in the undergraduate years.
Oh my, in undergraduate years. I can't think of one single individual. Let's pass on that one.
We'll pass on that one. Did you ever participate in a rally, protest, or cause?
Not on campus. I didn't really fully understand the impact of that, why and how I should do it. My hesitation had to do with growing up Nazi Germany. We were so suppressed in being allowed to express ourselves. It was just something that we did not do. We didn't carry banners because we would have gotten arrested. So I really never engaged in public rallies. Right now, I feel very differently about that and would go out and picket.
This is Part F, graduate level, master's degree. Did you go on to graduate training for a master's degree? [Yes.] And where was that?
Same institution. University of Utah. But I did a minor in physics, so I got my MSEE with a minor in physics.
What led you to that choice of school and curriculum? Since it was the same school, I assume it was —
Pretty much a continuation, yes.
How were you supported in graduate school at the master's level?
Well, all on my own. I worked in the summer time. Several times I was an employee at Yellowstone Park and earned a few hundred bucks. That was enough in those days to pay for a semester of tuition. I also drove a little nursery bus before and after school taking pre-school kids to nursery. And I mowed lawns for other people. That was enough to get me through college.
I didn't know you worked at Yellowstone. Were there any specific projects that you worked on, I assume research projects, during your master's program?
I designed a low-noise parametric amplifier for space exploration. That was my Master's Thesis project.
I've actually seen that thesis. It was on your shelf in your office at Iowa.
Oh yeah! [Laughs]
Well, you just answered this question, what was your Master's Thesis on? So we'll skip that one. Who at that school had the greatest influence on your future? Now, of course, it's the same school, so if there was someone in grad school.
I'm embarrassed because I can only come up with one name, Professor Harris. He was the Chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering. Anyway, he impressed me, again because of his teaching style. He was enormously repetitive. Every period he repeated a third of the lecture of the previous day, giving it all over again. And for a while I asked myself, why is he doing that? We just heard all of this yesterday! But I realized when I was done with that class the material stuck. It was basic circuit theory, just DC and AC circuits. I retained more from that class than any other I have taken. I began to understand that repetition is the key to learning.
This is Part G. This is graduate school, but at the doctorate level. So number one, did you continue on for a doctorate, and at what school?
In a roundabout way. After I left the University of Utah and graduated with my Master's, I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I took a job there at North American Aviation, which later became North American Rockwell. There I continued on with work on radar absorptive materials, a project called HIDE, where we covered nose cones of air craft with material that was radar absorptive. I also worked on other applications for space exploration. Unexpectedly, at that point I was called to go on a mission for the church I had joined when I was a child, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This came as a great surprise to me and changed my life completely. Anyone who is called on the mission basically has to pay his way. It's a sacrifice. First of all, you have to take two years out of their life and drop everything else. Then you pay for your expenses on the mission. Typically, young men do this in our church at the age of 19-20. I was 25 at the time and I was just beginning my career. I had a girlfriend it looked like the rest was clear sailing. So this bishop in the local congregation decided to challenge me and said, "Would you like to go and serve the church for two years?" I was not only confused, I was angry. It caught me completely off-guard. I got on my knees to get guidance from above. Within 24 hours, I dropped everything and prepared for a two year mission. That's how I got to the Northwest, where we are right now, holding this interview. In fact, Portland, was the headquarters of the mission I was called to and worked out for six months at the end of the mission, but I also served in Seattle and other places in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Many things in my life changed and I began to focus on areas that I never figured I would return to. While I was in Seattle I took singing lessons from a fairly well known singing teacher, Leonard Moore. He directed the Seattle Chorale and gave private voice lessons. Soon I began to see my personal mission in life. I was going to bring together the science and the arts in human vocalization. But I had to go back to school one more time. Now I had to study the vocal instrument and forget about radar absorptive materials and space communication. There were thousands of engineers in space communication, but I didn't see anybody working on the science of voice. But I met singers, several at the Seattle Opera Company, who were asking similar questions: How does this instrument work? Why can you sing one pitch and not another so well? And what determines the quality of the sound? How do you keep from fatiguing if you're singing a lot? Those were just a few of the question. And I said to myself, "There's got to be somebody who can give concrete answers." So I looked around for graduate schools, "Where is this sort of thing taught? Where are the schools that teach acoustics of speech and singing?" I knew of Penn State and it's big acoustics department, but it was mainly noise and physical acoustics. Then I was told that Harvey Fletcher just retired and moved to BYU. As the father of stereophonic sound, he must know something about this. Furthermore, he had written the book on hearing and speech communication. I didn't know at the time that Bill Strong had started his professorship there, so when I got to BYU I thought I would work with Harvey Fletcher. It turned out that Bill Strong had really taken over the whole area. I got to love and connect with Bill Strong immediately.
Bill had just come from MIT?
He had just come from MIT. I think he took a professorship no more than two years before I got there.
Oh, okay, good. Well, the second question you've answered: What led you to that choice of school and curriculum? I think we've covered that. How were you supported during that time?
I was fortunate then to actually get a NDEA, National Defense Education Act, Fellowship. That was enough financial support for me to marry Kathy, whom I had met on my mission but for obvious reasons never dated during my service. We even had our first child, Karin, and Michael was on his way by the time I finished my Ph.D. at BYU.
Were there any specific projects that you worked on?
I immediately got interested in vocal fold modeling because, as you know, the now often quoted publication by 1shizaka and Flanagan in 1972 on the two-mass model was the hot item at the time I was in graduate school I read that paper so many times I think I knew ultimately it better than both of those authors.
And that led to your doctoral thesis, which was vocal fold modeling.
Right. I extended it to a16 mass model that basically had the anterior-posterior variations in it. But the minute I finished my dissertation, I realized that I should have read the literature better or should have gotten to know a person by the name of Minoru Hirano, at a professional meeting, he explained the layered structure of the vocal folds instead of modeling only layers of masses (or elements) in the anterior-posterior direction, I needed more layers in the inferior-medial direction according to the histology he presented. So, the minute I put the pen down and had written my dissertation, I said to myself, "I got to start all over again because I didn't know enough anatomy."
During your doctoral degree, who had the greatest influence on your future?
It would have to be Bill Strong.
Part H, other academic activities. While you were a student, did you ever conduct any classes for the college or university? Did you ever teach?
Oh yes. We were all teaching assistants.
That was in the Physics Department?
Yes, the Physics department.
Other training, Part 1. Were you ever in the military?
No, I was not. Actually, I couldn't have been because I was injured in World War II as a child and lost my vision in my left eye. They would have rejected me.
Part J. Did you ever attend any technical, business, or trade schools?
Did you ever take any correspondence courses?
I think there was one course somewhere, but I can't even remember what — I think it was an economics class.
And I assume you completed the course?
Yes. Not very well. [Laughs]
Part L, past professional career. After college, what was your first place of employment, your first title, and what did you do there? We kind of covered that already.
Yes. After my doctorate, my first job-well, I stayed at BYU and taught for a year there as an instructor-but the first job on a new campus was in Pomona, California State Polytechnic University where I taught in the electrical engineering and physics departments for approximately two years.
As an assistant professor?
More as an instructor because I didn't qualify for tenure track. The Affirmative Action Committees of those two departments insisted on minority candidates, and I didn't qualify.
Were there any special accomplishments, developments, or projects that you contributed to while you were at that first place of employment?
No, because the teaching load was too heavy. I had to teach four classes a semester, believe it or not, and develop the homework and grade all of it. I got nothing done, research wise.
Was there anyone there that had an influence on you or your future?
Can't say, because it was a contentious department. I did not enjoy the faculty meetings or the interactions that occurred, which partly led me to look for another job rapidly.
How long were you there?
I think it was a little over a year.
What year did you leave?
I left there in 1974.
You've already talked about why you left, so we'll go on.
That took me to Saudi Arabia.
That's the next question. Then where did you go?
It was a terrible time to find a job in the U.S., kind of like it is right now, people graduating and not really finding any tenure track positions. But a recruiter from Saudi Arabia came along and said, "We have a University called the "University of Petroleum and Minerals" in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia where we need young, bright people who can teach our students physics and engineering courses." I said, "What have I got to lose?" So Kathy and I looked at each other after seeing that interviewer and said, "Here's an adventure — let's take it." So we went. We had two little kids, Karin and Michael at the time. We hauled ourselves, the four of us and our few belongings to the Middle East and experienced a whole different life.
I bet. And what was your title at the University?
I was an Assistant Professor.
And you taught in the Physics department?
Yes, the Physics department.
So, again, similar questions. Were there any special accomplishments, developments, or projects that you contributed to while you were in Saudi Arabia?
I designed a solar house as one of my projects because there's so much sun in Saudi Arabia. [Laughs] I took it upon myself to learn something about the photoelectric energy conversion concept and designed the full plant based on energy principles for a house. The Saudis loved it because in the '70s all of their energy, of course, came from oil. Yet they had sun energy there like nowhere else, and so they thought that was interesting.
Was there anyone there that had an influence on you or your future?
I wouldn't say so much a person, but I would say the whole culture of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world in general, had a profound impact on me in terms of understanding diversity and different points of view. I particularly liked the family values that I found in Saudi Arabia. Even though women were oppressed and didn't have the rights that they have here in the freer world, the emphasis on raising children responsibly was an eye-opener for me.
How long were you there?
And what year did you leave?
We left in 1976.
Okay. And your title when you left, you were an Assistant Professor?
Yes, I didn't get an advancement.
Why did you leave?
Well, while I was there, I kept corresponding with people here in the United States for jobs in the future. Obviously, we weren't going to stay forever in the Middle East. A person that I made contact with is Mack Pickett, who is a good friend of Bill Strong. Bill had worked with Mack at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Pickett said, "Take your time whenever your contract is over in the Middle East, let me know." He knew that I couldn't just break my contract. He said, "We'll have a position here for you." And so I said, "Sounds good to me."
Good. Then you went to Gallaudet and you became an Assistant Professor there? And what did you do there?
I did mainly research. My job was basically to develop devices, techniques, and instrumentation for helping profoundly deaf people acquire speech. It was supposed to be a combined oral and visual approach. So I worked with tactile and visual assistive devices and wrote some software for applications. But in the meantime, I kept coming back to the vocal fold modeling. It never left my head, and so I used every excuse to apply vocal fold modeling to teaching the deaf how to speak. That's how I got my first NIH grant.
You mentioned Mack Pickett. The question is was there anyone who had an influence on you or your future?
Actually, it was a student that just walked into the lab one day. He came out of nowhere. His name was David Talkin. He just asked some questions about what we were doing, and immediately got hooked. At first, he started coming in to work without a salary. "Just let me work here." We gave him some assignments and found he was extremely bright. Later, we found money for him. He worked on my grant and developed enough skills to get himself a grant. Eventually, David became President of a fairly impressive company, Entropic.
How long did you stay at Gallaudet?
About three and a half years, somewhere in there.
Approximately what year did you leave?
What was your title when you left?
I was still Assistant Professor, but I was ready to be promoted to Associate Professor in terms of my research productivity. However, I did not acquire sufficient expressive sign language skills to qualify for tenure, at Gallaudet. It was a requirement, to be proficient at sign language. But sitting in a laboratory, you speak to nobody all day long. That was the reason I looked for a new position, which got me to Iowa.
So you went to Iowa next. Your title there when you started?
Associate professor with tenure, after a short probation period.
And what department were you in there?
It was called Speech Pathology and Audiology then. It is now Speech Communication Science and Disorders.
And what did you do there?
All the academic things one is supposed to do: teach, serve, and do research. So I brought my grant with me from Gallaudet and continued with government funding. I started my career of training graduate students. And you were one of those.
Right. Were there any special accomplishments, developments, or projects that you contributed to while you were there?
Projects? Let's see. Well, the whole idea of vocal fold modeling continued and still does to this day. One of the things that I wanted to develop was a whole field of specialty training called Vocology. We finally got that into the University of Iowa catalog, a series of specialty courses in voice. We defined Vocology as the science and practice of voice rehabilitation. To me, that was a way of combining all the areas of voice into one eclectic kind of a focus. So I worked with the music school, a little bit with theater arts and with speech pathology, to come up with hopefully effective techniques to help people with their voices.
Iowa was also the place where you originated the National Center for Voice and Speech. Is that right?
That's correct. That happened in 1990, 11 years after I had gotten to Iowa. That was a very important time because a request for applications came from Washington to fund what they then called regional centers of excellence. The National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders had just been established. Congress wanted these centers of excellence, and five Center grants were awarded: two in hearing, one in neurogenics down in Arizona, one in voice/speech, and one in balance. We received the one in voice/speech. As the principal investigator, I formulated it with the idea of a Consortium. I never thought that voice and speech can be prominent enough nationally if it's members were all located in one department or even one institution. So I felt like we had to have people from Wisconsin, from Utah, from Denver, and Iowa which create a solidarity amongst us that allowed us to solve problems quicker and better.
Was there anyone at Iowa that had an influence on you or your future? Probably many-you were there for a long time.
Many people. I have to say more the students than the faculty. I love the Iowa faculty; we all get along well. But the real intellectual stimulation and the desire to continue for a long period of time came through the students.
How long did you stay there? You're still there.
Yes. In fact, this year is year 30.
So what year did you leave is not relevant. Well, maybe you want to talk just a little bit about your parallel work in Denver because that happened in, what, '83?
'83 is when I first was invited by a physician, an otolaryngologist in New York by the name of Wilbur James Gould, to help him build a laboratory in Denver. He had a good friend there by the name of Donald Sewall, well known in the theater world. Dr. Gould convinced Donald Sewall that we need a voice lab right in the middle of a Performing Arts Center. We don't want to go out to Universities or to the suburbs to take care of our people. We want somebody who likes and understands performers well enough to work right here. So Gould said, "Well, I'm the physician. I can be of some service. If you really want this to fly, however, you've got to find a scientist that can bring people into laboratories to investigate new ideas and techniques." So Gould approached me at one meeting in New York and said, "You want a second job?" I said, "I've got plenty to do in Iowa." He said, "But I want you out there in Denver — even if you can only give a little bit of your time as a consultant. That's all I ask for." So I had to give it a shot. At first I went to Denver maybe once a month, spent a few days to see what could be done. I got people to come and work there. For the most part, they continued for several years. You're part of that legacy. And so, that's how it all started and it seemed to work. Investigators were basically happy because it was something new.
I remember one time you mentioned that in some ways you patterned the laboratory at the Denver Center after the Olympic training center as a place to study elite voices like elite athletes are studied at the Olympic training center. Was that…?
That's very much true. Dr. Gould and I actually took several visits down to Colorado Springs to look at how athletes train and how they are studied in training, on treadmills, on tracks, and swimming channels, and other devices. We said, "By golly, if this works in sports, why can't this work in the performing arts?" So we did pattern our approach after that model.
Currently you still are there, so that question we'll leave. Well that covers that section. The next one is publications. Did you ever write a book or have something published?
Yes. For better or for worse, I am now finishing my fourth book. The last two are going to come out more or less together, hopefully this year. My first book was Principles of Voice Production. The second was Myoelastic-Aerodynamic Theory of Phonation. And now there will be a little book that is very much for popular consumption called Fascinations with the Human Voice. And then there will be Vocology for which I will have a coauthor, Kitty Verdalini. In terms of refereed research articles, I think I'm right around 200 now.
Is there anyone or two of your journal publications that you see as kind of definitive publications?
Yes. In 1988, the small amplitude oscillation theory paper, where I basically developed the idea of phonation threshold pressure. This is more and more becoming one of the key measurements to be made about the voice. It is the equivalent of the threshold of hearing, for example, in audiology. We haven't been able to measure it very well because it requires this indirect technique of shuttering the lips in order to get at the lung pressure. But I think we now have a technique where phonation threshold pressure can be gotten much faster and much better. This is done by phonating through a straw and making a pressure measurement behind the lips. It's taken me all these years (since 1988) to come up with it, but a paper is now in press. So phonation threshold pressure, as we understand it and begin to measure it better, will be pivotal in understanding healthy and unhealthy vocal use.
All right, this is Part N called family. So number one, what is your present marital status?
I am married.
If married, what is your spouse's name?
And what is your spouse's occupation?
She's currently a homemaker and runs my book sales, but she spent many years of her life teaching piano in the home to kids in our church and neighborhood.
When and where did you meet your spouse?
I met Kathy when I was on my mission in Spokane Washington. The Pittards were a family that took in missionaries, and I was one of them. Kathy, their oldest daughter was in the Senior Year of High School I got to see her occasionally at the dinner or a fireside discussion. When I entered BYU, I was told that she was there I looked her up, and the sparks flew.
When and where did you get married?
We were married in 1969. Actually, the ceremony was in Idaho Falls, Idaho because that's close to where her parents lived. But we courted at Brigham Young.
And do you have any children?
We have four: one daughter and three sons. The daughter is the oldest, Karin. The sons are Michael, Jason, and Gregory.
Is there anything special about your children that you would care to mention?
They are wonderful children. They adopted a balanced lifestyle and married terrific partners. They like sports. Some of them like music. None of them went to Ivy League schools, but they know what life's about. They all are believers in god and a life hereafter. And they are all raising children of their own right now, terrific kids. We have eight grandchildren.
Thanks. The next section is Part O, personal interests. What is your favorite form of entertainment? That's a tough question.
My favorite form of entertainment. Well, I guess music as a class of entertainment. I personally enjoy singing a lot, and I love to jam with other people, whether somebody plays the guitar or piano, or whatever. But if I just sit in the seats and watch other people do it... I certainly enjoy opera, but it has to reach a certain threshold. If it doesn't reach that it can be painful.
These are just kind of funny questions. Name your favorite. First category is authors or books. Do you have a favorite author or favorite particular book?
Oh. I don't read that much other than my technical writing, but I was very impressed by Kuhn's book, The Making of a Scientific Revolution. That has stuck with me, one of the books that I gained much insight from.
I remember one time (you surprised me actually) when we were in Munich, you mentioned Johann Goethe as an author that had influenced you as probably a young man.
Yes, I would say so, Goethe and Schiller were two famous German writers, but I have to admit that they're difficult to read, and so if I pick up a book by either one of these authors, I tend to stew over one page for an hour and I don't get very far.
That's typically how they write them.
It's not easy reading.
How about movie stars or movies?
Oh my. Chariots of Fire was maybe the most enjoyable movie for me. Again, I love movies that inspire me to get up and do something myself. I don't like movies that depress me and there are so many these days that do. Movie star? Who would that be? I can't think of one single one right now. Jimmy Stewart was certainly one of the favorites of former days.
This one is: name your favorite music singers or songs? That's a big category for you, I'm sure.
Let me start with a composer. If I had only one composer or one composer's music to take with me to an island where I would be stranded forever, it would have to be Mozart. There is just no question. And why? Not that other composers and other music hasn't in some way exceeded what Mozart did, but when you take it collectively, when you look at what he accomplished in terms of opera, sacred songs, concertos for small ensembles, symphonies, and choral works, there is no one in my view that has had that broad a spectrum of music and produced it with such incredible feeling. And what really impresses me about Mozart is that, even though he didn't write for himself-he wrote mainly for other people because most of his works were commissioned-it is so true to him unpretentious! It comes through so naturally that I must it was believe, divinely inspired. I love Beethoven's music as well, but Beethoven's music was primarily for Beethoven. Tchaikovsky sort of wrote for himself too but Mozart's lyricism came from somewhere out of space and just dropped into my soul. I love Cosi Fan Tutte, which to me is a gorgeous piece of music. The story and the acting are "kitsch." But therein lies the man's genius, creating a musical masterpiece when there is almost nothing to start with. My favorite singer of all time in the opera world is Fritz Wunderlich, a German tenor who was not as well-known as many others, but his precision and interpretations were, to me, beyond comparison. So if you ask me, put a composer and a performer together, I would say Fritz Wunderlich singing Mozart.
And what period of time was Fritz Wunderlich?
Well, he performed in the '60s and '70s. He died of an accident. He fell down some stairs and hit his head. He had just begun his career internationally. He sang mostly in Germany and Austria and other European countries, but then he had a contract at the Met to sing Don Giovanni, I think, the very year that he died.
Television programs. Any favorites?
You know, you won't believe this, but I am addicted to Law & Order. I'm a junkie. I can watch nine episodes repeatedly of Law & Order.
What about sports or sports teams?
Well, that has changed a lot. Lately I'm less and less excited about professional sports, and even some college sports, because I find the behavior of athletes, and their attitudes, so annoying, I can't put any of my heart and soul into this stuff anymore. It's totally out of bounds for me. But I'm an Iowa Hawkeye fan because I was there for all these years. Wherever I go, I route for the local teams. But still, I don't have the loyalty to sports that I had at one point.
Do you have a favorite quote that you can quote?
Yes I do, and I read this in an airline magazine. It went like this. "There’s no virtue in being better than someone else. There’s virtue only in being better than your former self."
Very good. What are your hobbies today?
I love to work outdoors in my cabin in Colorado. You know, chopping down trees and moving rocks and things like that. I still enjoy making music. I sing, if not every day at least every other day to keep my voice in shape. I still record songs. I made my second CD recently and hope to make another one with some friends. It's mainly about vocal bonding. That's a term that someone invented, Lorraine Ramig I believe. You don't get to know somebody until you do something fun with them, play a game or make some music.
What are your future plans?
I'm running out of years, but I have many things left to do in the area of voice research and translating it to the consumer. I keep saying to myself that I have to become more efficient. I have to get to the core of things a lot quicker than I used to it. So for me, right now in my life, it's all about efficiency, cutting out stuff that I don't want to do. For example, driving to work. In the big cities where I used to work, whether it was Washington, DC or Los Angeles or Seattle, I t took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour each way to drive. Everywhere I work now I look for being able to get to work on foot in a matter of ten minutes or less. I also need to stay associated with bright colleagues whom I can help succeed while they help me finish my agenda.
A few weeks ago when you were in Arizona and Hugh Morris was at our house with us, he took me aside and was talking about a quote that he heard from somebody. It was, "The secret to life is to enjoy the passage of time." It seems that you have kind of been able to live your life that way. You've enjoyed the passage of time and you've done most of the things you've wanted to and you will continue to do that.
I like the idea of passage of time. Being aware that time is passing early in life, when you never think of your own mortality, would be helpful. Brad, we both were runners. You are still a runner; I was once a runner. It was too much about achieving new heights when I look back on it, running a little bit faster or running a little bit farther. But you find out that there's yet another goal, and another one with no end to it. The joy of running is in the process as you have expressed to me. And literally seeing time pass is beautiful, along with reaching back often to your youth. I love going back to the places where I once lived, walking the streets again and going through the process of reacquainting myself with earlier thoughts and earlier attitudes. But time for the passing of time is something that is so underrated in our society. We live so much in the present. I now think more in two dimensions. There's the longitudinal axis and the lateral axis. The lateral axis is dotted with friends, family, associates and day-to-day appointments. I'm beginning to enter dots along the longitudinal axis where I connect to my ancestry and look forward to what the next life has to offer. Finding that perspective is in itself the real discovery of life, but you get only a short exposure to it.
Well, that's the end of the questions. The last one is, is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't touched on?
Well, I can't think of anything. Except this: It is a wonderful experience to be able to just reminisce a little bit about one's life, especially with a person that has been such a big part of it.
Thank you. It's been fun. This is actually a very enjoyable thing to do. Let's see. I have some closing comments. This is the end of the taped interview. I guess that's it.